The 71’s, We Are The Seventy Ones

The 71’s, <em>We Are The Seventy Ones</em>

The more I listen to We Are The Seventy Ones, the more it feels like it’s both an album out of its time and one that’s just right for right now. Better still, it’s damn sneaky about it.

See, it took me a little while to realize why the music The 71’s make on a lot of WATSO — not all of it, mind you, but we’ll get to that — sounded so freaking familiar. There’s a heavy Foo Fighters resemblance here, definitely (which is always cool by me), but that wasn’t it, not quite.

A minute or two into “Victimology,” halfway through the album, that’s when it hit me: what these guys have done here is essentially resurrect and rework the down-and-dirty, arena-sized rawk from the tail end of the ’80s. I’m talking metal, baby, in the sense that bands like Great White or Kix or Guns N’ Roses were/are metal.

I’m not trying to nail The 71’s to the wall for this, mind you; the opposite, actually. I’m glad to see bands like this taking a step backwards and reclaiming honest-to-God rock, taking it back from the alt-rock meatheads and the money-grabbing wannabes looking to cash in on being the next Nickelback or something. Fuck that, people.

No, what I’m liking is bands that grab those heavy, dirty guitars, big choruses, and gritty vocals and make them new, grafting ’em onto the sturdy, solid bones of the post-grunge era. There’s a whole weird pseudo-niche of other bands out there right now that are doing stuff like this, bands like The Bright Light Social Hour out of Austin, Brits Band of Skulls, Atlanta band MonstrO, and Canadian dudes Priestess (okay, not so much Prior to the Fire, but listen to “Confession” and try not to imagine it segueing into “Run Home,” off Hello Master).

After that critical realization, We Are The Seventy Ones suddenly made perfect, perfect, awesome sense. I literally had to go back and listen to the whole damn thing all over again with this new theory in mind, and I found further evidence on each and every track, loving the hell out of it more and more as it rolled on.

The band kicks things off nicely with “Blue Blood,” a straight-up, snarling-yet-tuneful chunk of rock goodness that dwells over on the Foo Fighters side of things — my one issue with the song would be the use of that weird watery vocal effect; c’mon, guys, you don’t need that. Keeton Coffman’s alternately soaring and howling voice is badass just the way it is.

I mean, just listen to “Waves,” where Coffman roars and screams like a man on the edge as the band barrels through a heavy, dirty blast of bluesy rock ‘n roll. No effects necessary, just balls-out rock.

Then there’s “Adeline,” which is burning, ’60s-tinged throwback-rock that simultaneously points at The Darkness and The Detroit Cobras’ version of “I’ll Keep Holding On.” The 71’s surge and stomp like a gigantic beast coming ashore to crush all in their collective path, and it’s impossible not to stomp along yourself.

For “Taken,” the band plays it a little more straight, going for skyward-pointing arena rock and hitting the mark beautifully, and then there’s the bluesy, heavy “Victimology,” all low and dark and murky like some unholy (yet great) crossbreed between Billy Idol and Red Fang. And hell, it works — oh, man, does it ever work.

The band takes a funky, dirty turn on “Much Too Much” and “Prince,” both of which see Coffman spitting lyrics rapid-fire like they’re poison in his mouth and then jumping smoothly into a falsetto.

And again, if you squint at ’em, they could be straight out of the tail end of the ’80s, especially “Prince,” with those raspy-edged vocals, whoa-oh-oh dude-backups, and stomping guitars. One listen, and you’ll want to go stand on the roof of a Camaro somewhere out in the teeth of a storm, lighter in the air, howling along.

In between all of that, though, Coffman and his cohorts — guitarist Ryan Cecil, bassist Jacob Lisenbe, and drummer Tank Lisenbe — take a dramatic turn sideways with “10,000 Miles,” stepping downwards into speedy, nimble, impassioned piano-rock that brings to mind Marc Cohn, weirdly enough.

It’s sweet and fragile, heartfelt without feeling clichéd, and then they hit the break, and it explodes into this utterly massive, Coldplay-ish moment…whoa, where the fuck did that come from?

Near the album’s end, “Heaven” hits a similar note, quiet and delicate, and I’m loving those fast-moving, Eric Johnson-esque guitars as they dance in and around one another, never quite touching. It’s touching and sweet; the lyrics are oblique, but the song feels like a tribute to a lost-but-never-forgotten parent.

The band closes with “Monsters,” a track that rootsy and uplifting at the same time, almost gospel-tinged, with a great organ line and Coffman flying high, and that’d be great as it is, but it’s a fake-out. The song fades away, and then around 4:45, a whole other song comes in, and it’s damn awesome, with some badass, propulsive drumming and a raise-your-hands kind of vibe. No clue why the band didn’t just decide to commit to this one and put it on the album proper, but I wish they had.

And honestly, it kind of says something that the biggest complaint I’ve got with We Are The Seventy Ones is that the band couldn’t fit just one more excellent tune on here. Go into this one with wide-open eyes (and ears, obviously), and get ready to rock the fuck out. You won’t regret it.

(Feature photo by Jack Potts.)

[The 71’s are playing 9/15/12 at Cactus Music, at 1PM.]
(self-released; The 71's -- http://the71s.com/; The 71's (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/the71s; The 71's (Twitter) -- http://twitter.com/the71s)
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Review by . Review posted Friday, September 14th, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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3 Responses to “The 71’s, We Are The Seventy Ones

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Skatestock + The 71′s + Venomous Maximus + ZZ Top + We Scare Coyotes + More on October 20th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    […] Oktoberfest Houston, featuring The 71′s, Luther and the Healers, The Scorseses, The Mighty Orq, Cosmic Bug Loaf, Rathcamp Dance Troup, & Enziam Buam @ Houston Community College West Loop Campus (5601 West Loop South; 1-10PM) For more festival-type-ness, there’s also the official(?) Oktoberfest Houston shindig over at the HCC West Loop Campus all day today. I’m not real familiar with most of the bands playing, but I’ve recently fallen hard for one of ‘em, The 71′s, after hearing recent full-length We Are The Seventy Ones. […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Buxton + Jealous Creatures + The 71′s + American Fangs + Los Skarnales + Reagan Youth + More on December 14th, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    […] broken up, to be honest), but the real stars here are headliners The 71′s, whose recent We Are The Seventy-Ones grabbed hold of my preconceptions about the band and kicked them out of town. They’re just a […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: The Tontons + Adam Bricks + Tyagaraja + Alkari + P.L.X.T.X + Keeton Coffman + The Beans + Days N’ Daze + More on April 21st, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    […] frontman for local rockers The 71′s; right after releasing the band’s stellar We Are The Seventy Ones, the band broke up, and Coffman went off on his own to do something else. Happily, that […]

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